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Reflection Period

Sex trafficking laws should include a reflection and recovery period for trafficking victims during which time they are eligible to receive services and benefits regardless of their immigration or other status, or their ability or willingness to cooperate with law enforcement and prosecutors. (See: U.N.O.D.C Model Law, Art. 18) In the United States, for example, immigration remedies for trafficking victims are conditioned on victims willingness to cooperate with law enforcement. [Link to IMMIGRATION PROVISIONS section of this Knowledge Asset.] Without a reflection period, this requirement is unduly harsh on victims who are suffering the traumatic effects of trafficking. 

A reflection period affords trafficking victims time to access services and begin recovery, as well as the time to make an informed decision on cooperating with law enforcement.

Module 3 of the UNODC Anti-Human Trafficking Manual for Criminal Justice Practitioners discusses the psychological impact of the trafficking experience and its effect on the ability of victims to participate in the investigation, prosecution and criminal proceedings against the sex trafficker.  Victims have experienced violence, abuse, and multiple ongoing traumas. (See: UNODC Anti-Human Trafficking Manual for Criminal Justice Practitioners, Module 3, 2009) The trauma of the trafficking experience underscores the importance of the reflection and recovery period for victims.

 

Illustrative Example: 

The Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings provides for a reflection period of at least thirty days for all trafficked victims when there are “reasonable grounds to believe that the person concerned is a victim.” (See:   Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings, Art. 13)  

 

Promising Practices: Several countries have provided for reflection periods in their sex trafficking laws. Reflection periods range from the recommended thirty days in the Council of Europe Trafficking Convention to 180 days in Norway and Canada. (See: U.S. State Department 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report, 273, 111, 2012)

 

CASE STUDY

In Norway, victims from other countries are allowed to stay in the country for a six-month reflection period, without conditions. The reflection period allows for a victim to access services and benefits while they consider assisting law enforcement. Under new regulations adopted in 2010, the Norwegian government now offers a permanent residency permit for victims unable to return to their home state. In order to qualify for the permanent residency permit, the victim must give a statement to the police outside of court. Furthermore, any victim of trafficking, making a formal complaint to the police is allowed to stay in Norway for the duration of trial and victims that testified in court are entitled to permanent residency. (See: U.S. State Department 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report, 273-274, 2012)

According to researcher Anette Brunovskis at the Institute of Applied International Studies, “This period can be further extended with one more year, if the victim is participating in a police investigation or court case. There are no conditions attached to the initial six months of the reflection period. Further, while the Danish reflection period consists of a delay in travel deadline, the Norwegian reflection period is a temporary residence permit, and also includes a work permit. This is a potentially important element as it can ease the transition for trafficking victims when repatriated if they can document that they have actually had work, and also if they are able to bring some money with them upon return to their country of origin. However, as of yet it has proven difficult to realise the goal of providing trafficking victims with jobs. The current reflection period framework was put into place in November 2006. Norway formerly had a reflection period that was more like the Danish one, where victims of trafficking were allowed 45 days to consider their options, but in the two years this was in function, only one woman chose this option, and it was therefore not considered a particularly efficient tool.” (See: Social Aspects of Human Trafficking, Anette Brunovskis, Institute of Applied International Studies, Comment Paper of Norway, Paragraph 2.2, 2007)